The seven-stage race will pass into South Carolina for the first time

By Steve Frothingham

Georgia will draw a top field in '08

Georgia will draw a top field in ’08

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Next month’s AT&T Tour de Georgia route will include a quick pass into South Carolina for the first time and replace an individual time trial with a hilly team time trial held on a motorsports track. It also will feature a new route for one of the key stages in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Organizers released details of the 7-stage race on Thursday. This will be the sixth edition of the race, which starts Monday April 21.

At 600 miles, this year’s race is about 70 miles shorter than last year’s. It begins on the coast at Tybee Island, Georgia, and moves up the eastern side of the state, entering South Carolina on stage 2, which finishes in Augusta. The ten-mile team time trial will be the fourth stage, held at the Road Atlanta track in Braselton. After several tough mountain stages and a hilly 134 miler on stage 5, the race concludes with a 10-lap circuit race in Atlanta.

“The route this year will continue to challenge the best cyclists in the world over varied terrain, and it will provide thousands of race fans a chance to see many new beautiful parts of Georgia,” said Chris Aronhalt, managing partner of Medalist Sports and the race’s event director.

Here’s a brief rundown:

Monday, April 21, stage 1 — The race will make its first ever visit to the seacoast when it starts at Tybee Island. The 71.8-mile stage passes through the coastal lowcountry, with several intermediate sprints before the finish in Savannah. The race has not visited the historic city since it hosted the prologue in 2003.

Tuesday, April 22, stage 2 — This 115.7 mile stage is another one for the sprinters, with two intermediate sprints and a mostly flat route before a åcircuit finish in downtown Augusta, which is on the Georgia/South Carolina state line. The route includes the race’s first categorized climb, in North Augusta, where King of the Mountain points will be awarded.

Wednesday, April 23, stage 3 — A 109.7-mile romp across rolling terrain, this stage travels from Washington to Gainesville, with one rated climb and three intermediate sprints before the downtown circuit finish. Gainesville hosted a stage finish in 2003 and a stage start in 2005.

Thursday, April 24, stage 4 — The Georgia race’s first team time trial will be held on Road Atlanta’s 2.5-mile, 12-turn track, used for events such as the Petit Le Mans. The 16.1km races will be held in heats with two teams on the track at a time.

Friday, April 25, stage 5 — The longest stage of the tour will include three major climbs: Burnt Mountain, Woody Gap and Crown Mountain. The 133.4-mile route starts in Suwanee and passes through 10 counties before finishing in Dahlonega.

Cesar Grajales guts it out on Brasstown Bald last year.

Cesar Grajales guts it out on Brasstown Bald last year.

Photo: Casey Gibson

Saturday, April 26, stage 6 — This stage’s mountain-top finish at Brasstown Bald has become a Tour de Georgia legend. Before gettting to the finish at the highest point in Georgia (at 4,783 feet), the race travels 88.4 miles passing rated climbs at Hogpen Gap and Unicoi Gap.

Sunday, April 27, stage 7 — The race returns to Atlanta for the final stage, a new 62.7 mile circuit race around the state’s capital, beginning and ending in Centennial Olympic Park.

Detailed maps will be available Thursday on the Tour de Georgia Web site.

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